Chapter 10 - Recovering
Tristan regarded her as the others left. The change was gratifying to see, he started to pack his few belongings. She grasped his hand -
Where are you going?
“Nay, mayhap you wish to have a place of your own now; I thought I would go back to my own room.”
We were supposed to be going together.
- She looked hurt; confused. -
I have offended you.
“Nay; nay, you have not – but I thought you would want to be alone now.”
“Why not?” It was his turn to be confused.
I like to be with you.
You comfort me.
“I see….” He sighed, what should he do? Only the Heavens knew how liked having her around, but was it being fair to her? She was finding her feet now; she should not be relying on him any more.
As if reading his mind she wrote -
I do not wish to lean on you too much Tristan.
But I value your company and your - friendship.
He did not like the pause before the last word. He would have to watch himself in future; he did not want sentimentality slowing them both down.
So we stay together?
“Aye, for now.” He smiled sadly. For once Tristan missed the sadness mirrored in her eyes.
'For now' - aye, he was right in that; for soon she would be away......
He went with her out onto the practice field. She was nervous and trembling but she got there; all the roman soldiers around did not help. But Tristan smirked at the way they were giving her a wide berth.
Whilst no one was willing to admit what had happened the night before, those that had been there were quite scared of the weird, battered woman who had so expertly dispatched their two friends.
Lancelot was waiting. She kept mouthing something; “what are you saying?” he asked intrigued -
A saying my father drummed into me as a child.
Do it trembling if you must, but do it!
He smiled “He was a wise man; come then, let us see what you can do.”
She was not used to the two swords she was given, but he was still amazed at her skill. After four hours he wanted her to use a dagger, and then the bow. Each time the knights, all of whom had gathered now to watch, would whoop and holler in support when Jules did well.
When a roman soldier came past her to speak to Arthur, she froze but held her ground. Arthur took a parchment from him and read it. He grinned “Knights, a bishop is coming from Rome to give us our papers; he will be here in a month. We are to give him safe passage; though I doubt any of us would take issue with that order!”
Loud hollers and hoots went up; Jules looked questioningly at Lancelot and Tristan; the scout, his passive face holding merry eyes nodded a Arthur “Our discharge papers - we can then go home.”
She grinned; and then charged Lancelot. “Hey, not fair; I was not ready…” he grimaced as she knocked him to the ground and had both her swords to his throat.
She shot him a look; Tristan smirked “I think that is Jules speak for ‘would the enemy wait for you to be ready’?”
She grinned again as she helped the dark knight up. “And there I was thinking you were such a sweet little thing.” He gave a mock glare.
“Demon more like!” Muttered the soldier as he passed.
“What? What did you say?” Lancelot blocked his progress with one of his swords, the other knights immediately stepping forward.
Dagonet was nearest her, she showed him the tablet. “She says leave him, Lancelot. If the man thinks she is such a demon, then she will just kill him in his sleep tonight; it will be less effort.” The large knight had to hide his smile at the horrified look on the soldier’s face.
The roman retreated to the sound of loud and raucous laughter from the knights. Tristan saw her trembling still, but this time she held her head high.
Later that knight, Tristan was sitting on the gallery landing with Jules; their legs dangling through the railings. "Do ache over much?"
She shook her head and shrugged -
Pain is naught to me. An old friend come to visit. I find it no issue. Merely it reminds I still breathe.
- She changed the subject -
What will you do?
When they release you?
“Go home; back to Sarmatia. Back to my tribe….” His voice held such longing, she leant and hugged him.
He smiled “What of you; when we leave here, what will you do?”
“You will not go back to your tribe in Sarmatia?”
She shook her head.
“You could always travel with me….”
She smiled -
Then I am seriously tempted.
- The smile faded suddenly-
But to go back to my tribe would be pointless.
All that I loved there are dead and gone.
No other man from my tribe would want such soiled and used goods as I.
“I would.” The quiet words were spoken before he could stop them.
She looked at him surprised. “What I mean is - it would not bother me that you were not a virgin.”
She hugged him again -
Thank you; you are a good man, a loyal friend -
“And your favourite.” he offered with a straight face; deciding to tease would be safer ground.
“It was hard not to with all the cackling that was going on from Van; at one point we thought you had captured a crow!”
Her head went back and she laughed her strange silent laugh; he thought how he would love to hear what her real laugh was like, her real voice – not the tortured screams or devastated whispers she normally uttered.
“What will you do here?”
She sobered -
I have things to attend to.
“You know where he is, do you not?” Tristan was suddenly alert.
- She looked at the floor.
He did not believe her; lifting her chin he stared into her eyes. She looked away. “Fine, fine – I will not push.” But his eyes held a thought she could read as clear as if he had said it out loud ‘but I will find out and then we will all deal with him’.
She could not allow that; she patted his face and hugged him. Her way, he knew, of comforting both him and herself; and she knew she must be away inside the month.
She clutched him tightly to her, pushing out the ache of her ribs, and pain at the loss of these friends she had made, the loss of him already biting most; squeezing her eyes shut trying not to think about being on her own again.
But she knew, knew as sure as the sun would rise on the morrow, it was the right thing to do; to go it alone - for to go with them, would only get them killed; and that she could never stand for......nor live with.
"What? What is it?” he asked pulling back to look in her face. “What has concerned you so much, why do you hug me so tightly?”
She looked at him, pushing a too bright smile onto her face -
You are my best friend Tristan.
Why should I not hug you tight?
He glared at the ground not fooled for a moment; he had got to know her far too well to be deceived, he knew there was much she was not telling him – and he had to admit for the first time since he had found her; he was worried.
She practiced hard and long over the next few weeks - the knights had gifted her with much; her own horse, a bow, swords and daggers as well as armour. Apparently the weapons and armour had been Bors’ idea; something Van had said had made him decide she needed them.
Jules and Van had become very close friends, akin to sisters in all but blood; and the mute young woman would miss the other equally as much as the knights when she left. Nothing had been said up to now; but Van had guessed the truth and had told Bors as much one night as he ate his supper, after all the little bastards were in bed.
“She is going after him you know…”
“Who is? Going after who? Make sense you daft bat! Ye Gods, women are demons! You come out with some random bloody statement and expect me to know who and what you are talking about!”
“Jules! I’m bloody talking about Jules, you idiot man!” She smacked his head.
“Owww! Well, why did you not say so? Who is she going after?”
Van gave a ‘look’.
“She cannot be! She knows we would go with her!”
“Aye, but she does not want you to - all she told me is that if you, any of you, do aught about this you are dead men; so she wants to deal with it herself. Why do think she has been practicing morning, noon and night; because she loves the company of you smelly lot?”
“Dag has been training her a lot, she would have told him. They have got real close, though not as close as she is to Tris I grant you…..and what about him? She would have told the scout if no one else!”
“Oh aye, so the man she loves with all her bloody heart can ride to his certain death?!” She slapped her hand over her mouth. She could curse that bloody lover of hers…….always winding her up until she blurted secrets out!
Bors stopped with his spoon halfway to his mouth “WHAT?!”
“SSSHHHHH!” She smacked him again.
“Woman, will you stop hitting me!”
“Do you want them all up?” she gestured to the room where the children were sleeping.
“Oh, nay.” he lowered his voice “So what is this about Tristan and Jules?” he grinned.
“Nay! I know you; you will go blabbing to the others…..”
“I will not! I never….well, mayhap…I do. But I will not this time.” He grinned mischievously.
She always fell for that grin and so told him of her suspicions. He agreed, “We have all seen it, but not been sure. But has she said?”
“Nay….oh mayhap I am reading too much into it Bors – but one thing I do know for sure and certain, is that she plans to go alone when she goes after her owner.”
He pulled her onto his lap “Well, we will not let her.”
“Good, do not; she has been a good friend to me,a sister almost, and I would miss her something awful if aught were to happen to her.”
He planted a huge kiss on her lips “glad I am not to be single anymore; it is too much bloody hard work!” She slapped him, but then fell about in gales of laughter as he tickled her…..
But he had remembered what she had said and insisted that they do more than gift the woman with a horse. True to his word, he never let on and made out it was for when they left her.
In the month since they had brought her back much had changed about Jules. She was still quite nervous about the Romans, but now would not let them see.
She held her head high; and had good reason to now. She fought as well as the knights, though Tristan and Lancelot believed the ability had always been there.
She had Tristan’s dispassionate nature when it came to fighting; Arthur knew she would fight to protect those she cared about, but not for sport or because she enjoyed it and he respected that.
Her wounds had healed; her bruises had long since faded. Whilst no striking beauty she was very pretty; her dark curls bounced as she walked, her hair with the customary plaits common to her and Tristan’s tribes now back in her hair, dark brown eyes alight with life. Her figure had gone lean and muscular due to good food and lots of exercise; though it was apparent that fate had been kind in the bust department, as Lancelot had been wont to joke…..well, until a glare from Tristan silenced him.
She made all the knights stare, as she would wander around their area, in her form fitting breeches and laced up shirts; she would never stray too far from them, even now. Even Arthur would often do a double take as she passed him.
But Jules only had eyes for Tristan; she was his constant companion. The others thought he might tire of it, but he never seemed to. In fact as the month wore on he positively seemed to enjoy her company, well as far as they could tell with the scout anyway.
However, they were all becoming concerned. She seemed to be preparing for something; but would never say what.
Lancelot pulled Tristan to one side the day before they were due to meet the Bishop. “What is she up to?”
“I do not know.”
“You mean you do not know either?” Lancelot was surprised.
“Why should I know more than you?”
“Oh come on, you are the bloody scout! Are you telling me you are truly ignorant as to how she feels about you? If she was going to confide in anyone it would be you!”
Tristan just shrugged and walked away……but was feeling both happy and concerned. He was suspicious as well of what Jules seemed to be planning; but Lancelot’s comments about her feelings only confirmed what he had suspected himself for the last few weeks.
The thing was how did he feel about her? He cared about her, he looked forward to sleeping at night because he knew she would spend the night in his arms; he looked forward to coming back from a scouting mission because she would always rush to greet him, even if he had been out with the others he was the one she would greet first.
The only other he knew her to be very fond of was Dagonet. He was another quiet knight and he thought that was what appealed to Jules was the fact they were as quiet as she; well, maybe not quite as quiet.
He smiled to himself as he thought about the change in her. She laughed so much now, albeit in her own silent way. The nightmares were lessening, maybe only one or two a week now instead of every night.
But they all still came running when she had one; that amused him, for all they did was stand around until he had calmed her and she was clinging to him and then they quietly filed out. But he felt they did it to show their support, not only to him but to her.
The biggest change was how she laughed at herself, they were getting used to ‘Jules speak’ which usually consisted of a look or gesture; though the best at this were he and Van, with Dag a close second. But he had noticed Lancelot was coming a close third these days; the dark knight liked her a lot and felt for what had happened to her.
But she did laugh at her silence now, her tablets went everywhere with her – Arthur always made sure she had plenty. Though the two of them did not really need it now, Tristan could almost read her face like a book, it was handy as the others still needed it.
But…….he pulled himself back to the issue that had started this reverie – what of his feelings for her. Lancelot said she felt deeply for him, hinted at love; so had all the others over the last few weeks.
He thought maybe she did; but did that make him conceited, like Lancelot - always so sure? Was he expecting too much from her? He had not even kissed her since that night, was too scared in case she woke; what would she have done, to wake and find him kissing her?
As for kissing her any other time; he did not want to put that kind of pressure on her. She was finding her feet he knew, but he did not want to jeopardise her recovery.
Much later they were in bed; Jules as usual snug against him one hand lazily caressing his face in her sleep, while he tried to think of anything but the feelings she was arousing in him.
He sighed, this was the worst time as well as the best in some ways; her warm body pressed against him, snuggled in his arms her hand clutching his shirt as always, and her breath fanning his face. Most nights now it took all his willpower not to kiss her, drive her wild with desire and make love to her.
Make love? Had he just thought that? He knew now it would not just be sex; with Jules he would love her - show her that not all men would use and abuse her, that he was different.
He loved her, aye he did; had tried to avoid it, tried to ignore it and tried to ensure he did not - but with all his heart, body and soul he loved her. So what in Hades was he going to do now?